Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
  • MENU


Ryde Cemetery Open Days
Ryde Cemetery Open Days

The end of May Bank Holiday weekend saw us once again hosting Ryde Cemetery Open Days. Although a bit overcast and windy on Saturday morning, the decorative bunting at the West Street entrance looked very attractive, the open gates at the Pellhurst Road end of the cemetery always encourage people to walk through and the surprise of an open door to the old Mortuary Chapel enticed curious passersby, so within a short while we had a steady stream of visitors. With improved weather we had even more visitors on the Sunday.

Our main theme for this event was ‘Ryde on the Brink of War’ and included the first few months after the outbreak of the First World War until the end of 1914.

The West Street Chapel (Mortuary Chapel) had displays on the Cemetery Restoration Project and the work of the Friends of Ryde Cemetery. There were also information boards with details of the Ryde Audio Trail and The Ryde Cemetery Trail, both of these trails were devised by Ryde Social Heritage Group. We also had our ongoing ‘Streets of Ryde, Then and Now’ display in this chapel.

The South Chapel was very busy, as always, with lots of display boards, books, leaflets and artefacts. Our miniature Ryde Castle as a Red Cross Hospital was in situ with a new mini Red Cross Field Treatment Centre. A vintage First World War British Officer Action Man and his machine gun, kindly loaned by Mr Les Kirkby, was another interesting addition to our displays this year.

Our ongoing and updated exhibition on ‘Ryde 100 Years Ago’ proved to be of great interest to visitors, especially the adverts for shops and business premises. Our new ‘War Cemetery Trail’ was also on display with lots of information about the graves of people who had served in the First World War. Part of the exhibition dealt with the volunteers and work for the war effort. There was a detailed section on the work of the Red Cross. Our mannequin stood in the corner (as expected) and on this occasion was portrayed as Mrs Forsyth, appealing for jam and knitted garments to be parcelled up and sent to the Front.

This year we were very pleased to have a section of the South Chapel set up by Jo Dodd of Ryde Library, displaying a large collection of wartime books and posters, also a collection of artefacts and replica First World War uniforms loaned by the IW Museum Service.

Clare Martin, Information and Advice Officer, Age UK was on hand all weekend offering free advice and information leaflets on all aspects of the work of Age UK in the community.

Our friends Nikki and Wendy from ‘Grave Concerns’ joined us again on the Sunday and were busy telling people of the wonderful work they do on maintaining graves and the various ways they can help relatives with any matters related to the graves of loved ones.

The North Chapel was very busy with its refreshments and everyone was most generous with donations on both days. In this chapel our ever expanding collection of archive files is available for perusal. People can spend hours looking through these and discussing with friends and RSHG members (or whoever happens to be sitting next to them) the interesting details they have found. At 4.45 on the Sunday, (closing time was officially at 4) we had to start taking down displays and put up ladders to remove bunting, to try and give a hint to those still gathered round the tables reading files, that it was time to leave!

On both days David Earle gave a very interesting guided walk and talk on First World War graves in the cemetery. Kate MacDonell and four RSHG Cast Members also presented ‘Meet the Residents’ which this year introduced characters from Ryde in November 1914. Shelagh Gaylard was the wife of Major General Fetherstonhaugh, a very important lady at the forefront of the organisation of the War Effort in Ryde. Janette Gregson portrayed Miss Kleo Friend, Commandant of the Ryde VAD, ‘competent, capable, skilled, disciplined’ and actually a bit scary! Janette’s costume, made by her most competent and capable Mum, Maisie Kitching, was stunning – it looked like it had come straight off the set of ‘The Crimson Field.’ David Bushell is now expected to be a ‘mad someone’ and did not disappoint with his portrayal of Mr Harry Baxter, an Honorary Special Constable with many official duties. (Jenny and Liz laughed so much their sides ached!) Ann Barrett played the part of Mrs Eddis, the wife of the Vicar of Holy Trinity. She spoke of many activities the community was engaged in and stressed how everyone was working together at this time of National Crisis.

During the Open Days we were very pleased to welcome a French visitor, Madame Michele Segura-Coz, who is the President of the Association Le Hilda. Ann has been helping Michele for some time with research on the ‘SS Hilda’ a ship which foundered in 1905 off St Malo harbour with severe loss of life. Michele visited the grave of Alice Denham, who was from Ryde and perished in the disaster at the age of 17. We are also pleased to welcome Michele as a new member of RSHG.

These were the first Open Days for John Martin, the sexton of Ryde Cemetery. It was absolutely great to have John as part of our team and fully involved with everything before, during and after the proceedings.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Kate MacDonell
June 2014